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Interview with Anna Eastman

Anna Eastman

Anna Eastman has served two terms as HISD Trustee in District I, which is where I live. She has been a leading advocate for having strong accountability measures in place for schools, she was a frequent critic of former Superintendent Terry Grier, and she was the most outspoken Trustee for passing the recapture referendum, both the one that failed in November and the one that passed on Saturday. Her term expires this year, and she has decided that she will not run for a third term. As I did with her predecessor Natasha Kamrani, Eastman wanted to do one last interview to talk about what has happened while she was in office, where things are now and where they are headed going forward. I was happy to oblige, so here’s what we talked about.

(Note: we were interrupted twice by the Eastman dogs barking. I paused the recorder till we could restore order, so if there are a couple of places where it sounds a little weird, that would be why.)

I should note there are two candidates already in for HISD District I, and I expect there will be at least one or two more. I’ve got a post on who’s running for what in HISD planned for the near future. I will of course be interviewing candidates in the fall.

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18 Comments

  1. Ross says:

    Anna Eastman leaving the HISD board is not good news. She has been a voice of reason and decency, and has been helpful to me personally on several occasions. I hope we don’t get more of the Jolanda Jones/Diana Davila types that don’t really give a damn about the kids, and are on the board for their own self interest.

  2. C.L. says:

    Meh. I, too, live in Eastman’s District. She’s been nondescript. Vote No to send a message to lawmakers, but vote Yes to go ahead and cut the check ? Howabout working with Austin to solve the problem ?

  3. CL – Eastman advocated for a Yes vote on recapture in November as well as in May.

  4. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Good riddance HISD will be much off without her, let us hope that the Heights will vote for someone that cares about all children, not just children of the Heights.

  5. C.L. says:

    @Kuff… Houston Chronicle, 11/02/16: “Then I (Lisa Falkenberg) called HISD Trustee Anna Eastman. I had heard her position had evolved, and I wanted to know why. “My gut originally was ‘No Way. Come and take it’, she told me, explaining that she’d planned to vote “no”. But studying the consequences make her see another side – voting the measure down is a risky move that could lead to an even bigger financial loss for HISD and saddle taxpayers with a small tax hike.

  6. Yes, and the point of that Lisa Falkenberg column was to endorse a Yes vote on the recapture proposition. Eastman never publicly spoke in favor of a No vote. She only ever spoke in favor of a Yes vote.

  7. Anna Teagarden says:

    What a HUGE loss for District I. It will be very difficult to fill her shoes. Anna is smart, dedicated and always put the children first. Thank you, Anna Eastman, for your time, energy, commitment and strength!

  8. Dianne Johnson says:

    Why do you think Anna only cared about Heights children? I’ve continued to watch some…certainly not all…board meetings since leaving the board, and I can’t think of a single vote like that. Quite the contrary. She was perhaps the strongest board advocate for getting more dollars to the school level for all kids! Among Anna’s many strengths, I think advocating for ALL children tops the list.

  9. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Diane Johnson, I guess you are referring to my comment, part was made in response to one post above the one I wrote, but one only has to look at the lack of quality programs in the none Heights area to come to a belief rightly or wrongly that Ms. Eastman did not put too much effort into those areas, that is only second hand repeating what has been told to me. I don’t know it to be true or not.

    Just wondering would you be former HISD Trustee? Do you know something different?

  10. Northside Leader says:

    Anna’s passion and approachibility will be missed. She dedicated so much of her life to improving the education of ALL HISD students. Everyone is criticized at one point or another. But we know her interests were never clouded by politics nor personal agendas, unlike other board members. She was the only one who would speak up against the loud mouth jesters sitting next to her. God speed Anna and may your next endeavors continue to bring you joy.

  11. Ross says:

    @Neither, there are quality programs all over HISD. The Heights had the advantage of very engaged parents, many with a willingness to raise money to support their school goals.

  12. Neither Here Nor There says:

    Let us see where her next jobs come from before we celebrate.

    Ross, it is about raising money, the richer the neighborhood the better the schools since they raise the money? But the most insulting part is that somehow you seem to think that they love their children more than poor parents.

    I admit that I don’t follow HISD as closely as I once did, but I am an avid reader and really don’t recall Ms. Eastman standing higher than anyone else.

    Ross some areas that had quality programs had them taken away and placed in areas where people with money resided, I will mention one Montessori School as one example.

    She may have been a decent Trustee, but there is no reason to bad mouth others, I personally have always supported Jolanda Jones, so why bad mouth her? Is she not representing her district and the children of HISD?

  13. Ross says:

    Jolanda Jones represents herself. And no one else. She is smart, but I have no idea why she is on the HISD board.

    If you think Heights schools have involved parents, you should check out the schools the West U and surrounding areas kids go to. Lanier, Lamar, etc.

  14. Anna Eastman says:

    Thanks for the interview and posting, Charles.

    I miss the old days when folks commented on the Chronicle. Although, I think it is always better for people to comment openly and without anonymity, it’s instructive to read how you are perceived by folks outside of a self selective group on, say, Facebook.

    I look forward to blogging more about what it’s like to serve on a small, single-member elected body like the HISD school board. I barely touch on what the obstacles are to staying focused on kids’ outcomes and how they are shaped, positively or negatively, by our system. I’ve never been focused on tooting my own horn, which clearly leads to a greater misunderstanding of the work, where I spend my time and who I represent. I understood very quickly that certain folks would never believe I advocated for my entire district. But, I did commit that I would never let that perception keep me from making decisions I believed to be best for all kids – nor would I shield myself from opposing positions or criticism. I believe this work is Sisyphean in nature and demands continuous improvement and a willingness to look in the mirror frequently.

    It truly has been an honor to serve. And . . . I still have seven more months on the job, including an important budget process and approval in June. Hopefully I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned elsewhere in the education space or public sector.

  15. C.L. says:

    My question to Anna would be, did you send your kids to Reagan/Heights School and if not, why not ?

  16. Ross says:

    @C.L., why would that matter? HISD has school choice, so you can find a school that suits your kid’s skills or interests. My kid doesn’t go to our zoned school, because we liked the curriculum at other schools more, but we would have been fine with our zoned schools. For HS, he’s going to a magnet, but we would have been happy with Reagan or Waltrip. We prefer Reagan over Waltrip, our zoned HS, simply because it is actually closer to our house, and more of his friends go there.

  17. Anna Eastman says:

    C.L. I don’t share where my children attend school on public platforms to protect their privacy. I am not ashamed to say they have always attended magnet programs. I am an unabashed supporter of school choice. While sometimes frustrating, I believe it is one of the things that makes HISD and Houston special. If having trustees send their kids to zoned schools is a priority for Houston, I hope that standard applies to all. Currently we have trustees whose children attend private schools and/or attended charter schools. Personally, I believe parents play the first and most important role in their child’s education and support high performing options that come with access to any parent and family, not just those with the means to access them. I have consistently supported policies and programs that have created more seats in high performing schools while improving the quality of neighborhood schools. And when my kids didn’t get their first choices, we accepted that and moved down the list.

    Hopefully the folks in leadership positions in the district (both elected and administrative) whose children enjoy the benefits of the excellent educational options in Houston are also supporting policies to increase those options and access to them across the board. Unfortunately, that has not been my experience of late.

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